Whether you’re writing a blog post for business or pleasure, odds are that you’d like people to actually read it. Many bloggers poor their hearts and souls into their posts only to feel disappointed by the fact that their efforts don’t seem to bearing any fruit.
Here’s the unfortunate truth: that post that you have poured some serious thought into is just a drop in the bucket– a bucket that is getting significantly bigger every day. I’m talking about content overload and it’s a challenge that every aspiring blogger faces. I want you to get your post in front of as many eyes as possible and that’s why I highly recommend taking steps optimize your next blog post for search engines.
Since this is an extensive post, we decided to add some links that will take you to each section for your convenience:
- Keyword research for your blog posts
- Using keywords like a pro
- Tips for using headers and sub-headers
- Implementing optimized images
- Organizing blog content with categories and tags
- Building internal links with your blog posts
- Perks of using a responsive design for your blog
- Your content’s length does matter
- A great external linking strategy for your blog
- Making your blog post more shareable
- Tips for implementing an effective blogging schedule
Overcome the Challenge of Content Overload
There are more than 2 million new posts published each day (just look at how much content is churned out by BuzzFeed each day). There are lots of things scrambling for your readers attention nowadays. Taking advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) best practices is one of the best ways that you can elevate your post above the rest.
If you’re running a blog for your business, you probably don’t have the time to stay up on current SEO trends and major search engine algorithm updates. Unless you’re trying to become an SEO professional, this is where I would like to help you. Just keep these 11 SEO tips in mind when writing your next blog post and you should notice an improvement in its performance.
1) Keyword Research Provides a Solid Foundation
This a very, very important step that all too many people skip. As a business owner, you need to realize that people might use a variety of different terms or keywords to search for items or services that you provide. A business blog that is effectively optimized for search engines can help your site rank for valuable search queries related to your industry.
Luckily, there are are a variety of tools that can help you find the right keywords quickly. For this post, we’ll be focusing on one of the best to start out with.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner
One of the best tools for keyword research is Google Adwords Keyword Planner. It’s free to use– all you need is a Google account to get started. If that’s taken care of, you are going to head over to Google Adwords and click on the tools:
Then click on Keyword Planner:
You should have a basic idea of what type of topic you’d like to discuss in your next post, but the keyword planner will provide some valuable insights if not– this process just might take a bit longer.
Click on the “Search for new keywords…”
And here is where you can start entering the topics you’re interested in writing about. Google will retrieve related keywords. Remember that this tool was developed for Adwords, so you’ll want to ignore the Ad group ideas tab. Click on the Keyword Ideas tab and you’ll see a list of related keywords.
I recommend that you identify one or two long-tail phrases to focus on for each blog post. FYI – a long tail keyword is essentially a search phrase that includes at least one valuable keyword and is specific to your industry. Targeting for long tail keywords helps your site rank for more qualified traffic.
If you want a more in-depth guide to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner, check out this one from Hubspot.
This brings us to the next killer SEO tip for your blog post.
2) Don’t be a Chump — Here’s How You Use Keywords like a Pro
First things first– do not stuff keywords into your blog post! This is a practice that will tank your rankings. Here’s a great video from Matt Cutts (the Head of Google’s Webspam team) explaining keyword density:
If you followed the first tip, you should have 1-2 keyword phrases to focus on. I recommended finding long-tail keyword phrases as these can be used to target more qualified online traffic. I think too many business owners are focused on driving larger traffic numbers to their sites. Optimizing blog posts around long-tail keyword phrases may not yield those large, sexy traffic numbers, but it bring in the users who are more likely to convert.
Now let’s look at where you want to include your keyword terms:
Implementing your focus keyword phrase into your header is a must! Just keep title length in mind, since Google will truncate anything over 70 characters. WordPress user? I recommend using a plugin like Yoast SEO. It provides a snippet preview of how your title will show up in the search engine results pages:
This way you can test out different versions of your title if need be. A good headline is an essential part of optimizing your post for search. Readers and search engines will use it to determine the relevancy of your content. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to leverage that valuable keyword phrase.
Obviously, you want to include your keywords in the body of the post, but you really don’t need to over think it. Keywords should be included in a natural, reader-friendly way. Before you start to overthink this, let me point out that this is why I stress conducting keyword research before starting your post.
That process allows you to narrow down your topic. You’ll probably find that you’re including your keyword phrases and good variations throughout your post naturally. However, I do recommend that you take some time to review after you finish writing the body of the post.
Google and other search engines will read your URL to help classify the content in your blog post. That means it’s a good idea to include your keywords in your URL. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some bloggers go crazy with this. Here’s what I recommend– an optimized URL should reflect your post’s title. Remember that an optimized title includes your keyword phrase.
The primary role of the meta description is to provide readers with enough information to get them to click through to your content. Be sure to include the main keyword phrase for your target audience here. Also keep this in mind– your meta descriptions should be written for readers not search engines. Create some compelling copy that includes your keywords (don’t stuff!) and a clever call-to-action (CTA).
Here’s an example:
Also, these are a few good CTA’s if you need some inspiration:
- Learn more now
- Click here
- Get more details here
- Find out how
- Learn how it’s done here
- Sign up today
Try to keep your meta descriptions between 100 and 156 characters in length. Exceeding that limit means that part of your description will be truncated in the search engine results page (SERPs). Yoast’s SEO plugin will show you how many characters you have left and a snippet preview of how it will look in the SERPs.
3) Split Up Your Content With Headers and Sub-headers
Headers and images (see the next tip) help break up large chunks of text and increase the readability of your blog posts. It doesn’t take much for a reader to click that back button, so you need to create engaging content and layouts for your posts. If someone is in a rush, they should be able to jump straight to the parts of the post they need using your headers.
Even if these readers skim most of the post, they will rank better if people can consistently find the answers they are looking for. Use your headings to point the way!
Your post’s headings and subheadings are also a great place to include related keywords and phrases. Just don’t overdo it! Search engines will use your headings to identify the primary topic of your post.
I recommend using H2 tags and under to split up the body of the post. You’re post’s title will serve as the H1. As you can see in this post, I am using H2’s for each SEO tip. Some sections (see above) can be further split up using H3’s. Keep this type of hierarchy in mind when publishing your post.
4) Include Relevant Images and Make Sure They’re Optimized
Have you ever come across a long blog post that doesn’t include any images? It can feel quite daunting. Including relevant images in your post helps to break up bigger chunks of content and improve the post’s user experience.
Search engines will take note if you’re using images effectively in your posts, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Every image that you use on your site should have “alt text.” Think of it as a sentence that helps describe what your image is about. That’s how search engines will interpret the meaning of your image. Without the alt text, the search engine wont be able to accurately “view” the image. This is also another area where you can include related keywords for your blog post. Just make sure that they relate to your image.
- Please use images that help support the content in your blog post. Pictures of puppies are great, but they’ll only serve as a distraction to readers if you’re post is about “Best Websites for Booking Your Next Vacation.”
- Image size needs to be taken into consideration. Large image files can significantly slow down your site and harm your SEO. Each image that you use should be optimized for the web. If you use WordPress, the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin can make this process much easier.
5) Use Categories and Topic Tags Wisely to Organize Blog Content
Categories and topic tags allow you to organize your blog and improve user experience. With the right strategy, readers can easily navigate their favorite blogs and find the content they want. They also allow search engines to crawl your site more effectively and discover all of your content. If you’re creating new categories and tags without considering their placement in the larger picture, you could be harming your SEO.
Think of your blog like it’s a book:
- Your categories are like chapters of the book. When readers see the titles of your categories (chapter), they should get a good idea of what topics you cover and how you organize your content.
- Topic tags should be looked at like an index at the end of a book. This is a more in depth list of topics that are covered in the blog. If it’s included in this list, it should be a topic that is covered more than once in the blog.
You should find that your categories and topic tags include many of your most valuable keywords. However, you should take care not to create too many similar tags. if you have tags that only apply to one post, you take some time to consolidate your tags into a more concise list.
(Want to learn more about Category and Tag best practices? Check out this awesome article from the Elegant Themes Blog.)
6) Use Internal Links Like a Pro
You may have heard how important inbound links can be for growing your blog and ranking well in the SERPs. It’s most likely why you are working hard to improve the content on your site. Inbound links certainly are very important, but so to are internal links.
Linking internally to other pages can be used to improve user experience and can identify relevant and authoritative pages when search engines crawl your site. If you mention a previous post, you should link to it. Same thing goes for topics that you cover in more detail on other static pages in your website.
(Be sure to check out Kissmetrics’ Seven Commandments of Internal Linking for a more detailed guide to internal linking.)
7) Your Blog Should Utilize a Responsive Design
Did you hear about Mobilegeddon? This was how many chose to refer to Google’s mobile friendly update that was rolled out on April 21, 2015. This update was meant to penalize websites that were not mobile friendly.
When I say responsive design, I’m talking about a theme or website structure that will conform to fit screens for any device. Mobile is a big part of the game and you’re only shooting yourself in the foot if you’re blog isn’t mobile friendly.
You may be wondering why this user experience item is included in a list of SEO tips. As Google and other major search engines continue to improve their algorithms, one thing has become clear. They are trying to promote sites that provide a great user experience. Sites with an optimized UX have lower bounce rates and tend to be linked to more often. A design that works on desktops, tablets and smartphones is a MUST!
8) Length Does Matter
Any blog post that you write should have a minimum of 300 words and there are some marketers who have made super short posts work. For instance, Seth Godin is a very influential marketer who’s blog posts are very, very short:
However, the data shows that a higher word count typically results in more web traffic. There are around 200 factors which affect where your content will rank in the SERPs, but it certainly seems like more content boosts your chances of claiming that coveted pole position.
This chart from SerpIQ’s study illustrates this point:
Longer posts provide you with more room to use a variety of keywords related to your targeted blog topic. Google doesn’t just deliver exact match results for queries– it’s algorithm will identify pages that are semantically related to improve the results searchers get. The variety you’ve included in your post will help it perform better in the SERPs.
(Neil Patel delves a bit further into content length in this excellent post.)
9) Include Helpful External Links
You may know A LOT about your particular industry or niche, but there are others out there writing about similar topics. If you reference another blogger or particular article in your post, it’s a good idea to include a link to this resource. This is a good practice for several reasons:
- It can benefit your readers– I have included a few external links in this post. These can be very helpful if you’d like to learn more about a specific SEO tactic covered here.
- It’s good blogging etiquette– There are many blogs out there but it’s still a community. You don’t want to find yourself ostracized or earning a reputation for bad practices.
- You might also earn a link back– This is pretty darn rare, but a link back from an authority blogger can provide a serious SEO boost!
Now, the last two SEO tips are more for your blog than your next blog post. However, they are very important nonetheless.
10) Make It Easy for Readers to Share Your Blog Post
Leveraging the power of social media is one of the best ways that a blogger can ramp up their traffic and engagement over time. I’ll cover this in more detail in a later post, but you should know that publishing your high-quality content is only the first step. It won’t guarantee any success on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
Aside from sharing your posts on your own accounts, you can increase the number of shares your blog gets by integrating social sharing buttons around your content.
WordPress bloggers have access to a number of excellent plugins that will add these sharing buttons to each post on your blog. Blogging Wizard has a really good list of social sharing plugins that I recommend checking out.
(Quick Tip: Content marketing studies suggest that the best places to put social media share buttons are above or to the left of your content.)
Do some research before choosing the plugin you want to use. Some can slow down your site, which will harm your SEO. This might be a feature you look into after you’ve developed your blog a bit and started growing an engaged audience.
11) Implement a Consistent Blogging Schedule and Stick to It
You’ll come across many articles with differing methodologies on how often you should publish in order to achieve your traffic goals. The truth is that many factors will determine how often you’ll be able to post and it’s important to not sacrifice content in order to meet unreasonable publishing schedules.
That being said, if you can maintain the quality, publishing more frequently will help increase online traffic to your blog. What do I recommend? Pick a blogging schedule that you can consistently stick to for the long run. Remember that search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build up your blog.
An online audience demands consistency from their bloggers. You could lose a lot of regular readers if you suddenly go from churning out 4-5 posts per month to only 1. Start off at a slow or manageable rate and steadily increase your publishing frequency as you improve your site’s SEO. It can be helpful to keep a content calendar so you can plan out your topics in advance.
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to implement Google Analytics on your site. If you are using WordPress for your website, this is easier to do than you might think. Here’s a great video guide from WPBeginner:
I can guarantee that integrating these SEO tactics into your blog writing process will help you reach your content marketing goals. Also bear in mind that these are foundational tips, so please stay tuned for more advice that’ll help you improve your SEO and inbound marketing efforts.
Do you think I missed anything in this post? Let me know in the comments!